Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, August 4, 2005


What Happens When Madman has a Crisis?

Or: "Why You Haven't Received Madman Yet Tonight?"

My daughter has a rare neurological disease called NF2. Why is this relevant, you may ask, to "Today's Note from a Madman"?

On my way to New York City from Central New Jersey, as I do anywhere from three to five days a week, I received a call from my wife. Our daughter, who just four weeks ago had her third surgery relating to her disease, wasn't feeling well. She had a fluid leaking from her incision, which we later found out was spinal fluid and she had a fever. I drove the 35 or so miles back to central New Jersey to pick up my wife and my daughter and drive them to New York (Columbia) Presbyterian Hospital's emergency room, some 45 miles northeast of our starting point. Fortunately for US, there was only light traffic.

We arrive at the hospital and enter an near-empty emergency room. Understand this: New York Presbyterian Hospital is New York City's largest employer with over 33.000 employees. It is near Harlem, the Upper West Side, Northern New Jersey, the South Bronx (you can see Yankee Stadium from the upper floors) and is in Washington Heights. In other words, a lot of people go to New York Presbyterian Hospital when they are sick.

Imagine my surprise to see the waiting area at the children's emergency room empty. We spent the next seven and one-half hours there, and thought the problem was resolved.

We arrived back in Central New Jersey at 4:30 PM. By six o'clock, my daughter's temperature had risen to 102.3 degrees. By 7:00 PM we were back at New York Presbyterian's emergency room. A spinal tap was performed and the liquid was clear (good news). Both Bonnie (my daughter) and Hillary (my wife) are spending the night for observation purposes. I drove back to Central New Jersey where I arrived at 12:30 AM. I said hello to Charlie, our ten year old Basset Hound, grabbed a sugar free fruit punch and sat down to write tonight's Madman.

The Reason for Sharing This With You

As I had said before, the morning's emergency room was almost empty. However, at 7:00 PM it was jammed. There were parents with their sick child and their other children in tow. By every bed, there were at least three other family members. Most of the people were African American and Hispanic.

When I started listening to the sounds in the emergency room, something struck me: Whereas many of the parents were there for their sick children, many others were using the emergency room as a doctor's office. Some of them were waiting for hours before they could be seen, due to triage (the sickest children go first). Many of them had no health insurance and were there because they know they wouldn't be turned away.

The thing is, these people should have as much right to see a doctor as anyone else in this country does, but they don't. If they lived in Canada or England or France, etc, there would be no problem.

The parent bring their children to the emergency room after working hours. You see, these people have jobs, but many have no health insurance.

One of two things happen to the working poor with no health insurance:
1- They wait too long to see a doctor; their illness gets worse; it costs the American taxpayer more to have them treated; and, sometimes, they die from an illness that might have been cured had they gone to see a doctor earlier.
2- They use the emergency room as their primary care physicians; can't afford to pay the bills; and it costs the American taxpayer to have them treated

In either case, the American taxpayer pays the bill. if you couple that with what the insured pays today, including co-pays and prescription drug costs, the bill is staggering!

Here's an example: I am gamefully employed. Like most Americans, I contribute to my health care plan. My "employee contribution" is $716 per month for a plan that allows me and my family to occasionally go out of network. My family needs health insurance.

I also pay more than my fair share so the uninsured could see a doctor as well.

Like many other things, President "G"lobal "W"arming Bush promised US he was going to do something about the uninsured. What we didn't know was that he was going to increase their numbers.

It's late. I'm tired. Good-night.

-Noah Greenberg


Send your comments to: or

-Noah Greenberg